Hard Environmental Choices: Comparability, Justification and the Argument from Moral Identity

Environmental Values 30 (1):111-130 (2021)
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Abstract

In decision-making based on multiple criteria, situations may arise where agents find their options to be neither better than, worse than nor equal to each other with respect to the relevant criteria. How, if at all, can a justified choice be made between such options? Are the options incomparable? This article explores a hypothetical case that illustrates how such a situation can arise in an environmental context; more specifically, it considers the deliberations of an imagined 'ethics committee' as it struggles to decide whether or not a deep-sea mining project should be allowed to proceed. I argue that the case is best understood as involving options that are comparable in the sense of being 'on a par'. Working out from a discussion of Ruth Chang's 'self-governance' theory of choice in cases of parity, I suggest that, in the environmental context, the idea of choices expressing a moral identity may lead us in the direction of a plausible solution to these particularly challenging cases.

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Espen Dyrnes Stabell
Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (HVL)

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